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Area Drive weighing choices to modernize floor antennas for army satellites

Upgrades will embody combine of recent phased array antennas, business providers and capability from different U.S. authorities companies.

WASHINGTON – In a check this summer time at Schriever Air Drive Base, Colorado, an electronically steered phased array antenna made by Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace communicated with 4 army satellites throughout a number of orbits.

This was an illustration of a expertise the U.S. Area Drive would possibly use sooner or later to switch the growing old community of parabolic dish antennas situated across the globe used to fly army satellites. 

“This was the primary operational demo of the Multi-Band Multi-Mission program to modernize the Area Drive satellite tv for pc management community,” Col. Rhet Turnbull informed SpaceNews.

The Multi-Band Multi-Mission program is considered one of a number of that Turnbull oversees because the director of the Cross Mission Floor and Communications Enterprise on the Area and Missile Techniques Heart. 

“We have been capable of do 4 simultaneous contacts throughout a number of orbital regimes at totally different frequencies,” he stated. 

The Lockheed Martin/Ball Aerospace antenna, concerning the measurement of a giant convention desk, is considered one of two techniques being evaluated below the Multi-Band Multi-Mission program. The opposite is a phased array antenna from L3Harris that will probably be examined within the coming days, Turnbull stated. The businesses obtained contracts from the Protection Innovation Unit in April 2019 to develop antenna prototypes. 

Turnbull stated phased array antennas that may preserve contact with a number of satellites are one possibility being thought of to switch 15 present dish antennas that may solely speak to 1 satellite tv for pc at a time. 

The antennas are situated at “distant monitoring stations” at Vandenberg Air Drive Base, California; Royal Air Drive Station Oakhanger, United Kingdom; the island of Diego Garcia within the Indian Ocean; Andersen Air Drive Base, Guam; Kaena Level, Hawaii; New Boston Air Drive Station, New Hampshire; and Thule Air Base, Greenland.

The Area Drive operates about 77 satellites however extra will probably be deployed within the coming years so the present community of antennas doesn’t have sufficient capability. “Phased array expertise to regulate a number of satellites throughout a number of orbits is one thing we’ll want sooner or later,” stated Turnbull. “We’re launching lots of new capabilities they usually all should be commanded and managed from the bottom.”

The Area Drive, nonetheless, has not but determined what kind of electronically steered antennas it would purchase for the satellite tv for pc management community. “We nonetheless have lots of work to do in assessing what’s inexpensive,” stated Turnbull.

The probably resolution, he stated, will probably be a mixture of new phased array antennas, business providers and sharing agreements to make use of antenna capability from different U.S. authorities companies.

“We’re doing a research on what we need to go construct,” stated Turnbull. “Probably the most value efficient can be an enormous antenna that may speak to 30 to 40 satellites directly, however that additionally turns into a single level of failure.”

Below a program referred to as “business augmentation providers,” Turnbull’s workplace is choices resembling leasing capability from business distributors. It is also engaged on a partnership with the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make use of the company’s antennas which have extra capability.

“To fly the missions that we’ll be launching, we’ll want civil, business techniques, one thing like Multi-Band Multi-Mission along with the prevailing techniques we’ve at present,” Turnbull stated.

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